The worst part of holding onto someone’s sin against you is that their sins will begin to shape you. Slowly, you yourself become what you hate the most about someone else. Why does this happen? Let me explain.
The highest form of human morality is justice. Humans, at their best, do what is right. Equality and fairness are the best it gets when it comes to men and women. So what happens when someone sins against you? At our best in our human strength we try to right the wrong through making the scales equal again.
If someone yells at you, you will now feel like you must yell at them before you can move on. If someone punches you, you should be able to punch them back. If someone disrespects you, you won’t be able to feel respected again until you disrespect them back. If someone tarnishes your reputation in public, you will not be able to rest until you tarnish their reputation in return. If someone leaves a nasty comment on your social media post, you will need to reply with a nasty comment in return. Is it any wonder Jesus said:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ . . . You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:38, 43-45, NLT)
In Romans 2:1 Paul also warns us, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” In 1 Peter 3:9 Peter states, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
So if you do not want to become what you despise the most about others who have wronged you, what can you do? One solution people try is to just let it go. But this never works. If you just try to let it go and not respond, you will end up projecting that hurt onto others. If your boss yelled at you, you will come home and yell at your spouse. If your dad cheated on your mom, you will end up cheating on your significant others as you will manifest that hurt from your past into your present. Sadly, even those who were abused as children are often the ones who end up being abusive towards children once then become an adult.
So we can’t just let it go. We can’t just try harder not to become what we hate about others. No, the only way forward is forgiveness. If you don’t forgive the person who wronged you, the hurt they put inside of you will come out of you and hurt others. It’s like catching a contagious disease that spreads from one host to another, destroying everything in its path.
The only way to interrupt this deadly cycle is to stop it with forgiveness. It is the only cure. When you don’t forgive, you will feel like the only way you can get that hurt out of you is to do it to others. But when you forgive, you get rid of that hurt in the only way that does not pass it to others. Why? Because rather than pass it on to others you pass it onto the cross of our Savior. Rather than making someone else pay for the debts that are owed to you, you put that debt on the cross and Jesus pays that debt himself.
Forgiveness is not about letting it go. Forgiveness is about letting Jesus take the punishment your enemies deserve for hurting you. Forgiveness is when you allow Jesus to take the hurt someone put in you and he suffers on everyone’s behalf so we all can be free.
The hate, the anger, the lies, the infidelity – all the sins that are committed against you – you have to put that on someone to get it out of you. If you don’t put it on Christ so you can forgive the person who wronged you, you will put that hurt onto others and end up becoming what you hate the most.
Forgive one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.